Local food-similar to green building and vacant land reuse-was a movement numbering in the hundreds and operating as a well-established network before the 2019 summit. The summit provided a space for local food advocates and growers to revisit their goals and widen their tent. The group agreed to focus efforts coming out of the summit in these areas:
- 10,000 Farmers – Before the summit, the local food community was discussing how to meet the goal of growing 10% food locally (currently, across Northeast Ohio, 1% of our food comes from local sources). At the summit, they honed in on 10,000 farmers as a target to reach that goal: In order to build supply, we need to train a whole new generation how to be farmers and find them the land, including land in the city, to grow a diversity of crops.
- A community kitchen and incubator – A community space for gardeners to prepare food for market, including a wash area for greens and a canning and bottling facility, and for small food enterprises to acquire business skills.
- A local food marketing campaign – At the summit, the Local Food group worked on a brand, Growhio, and a logo for the eat local campaign.
I caught up recently with urban farmers and 2019 Local Food co-chairs, Peter McDermott and Todd Alexander, for an update on the group's activities.
A recent visit to community kitchen and small business incubator, ACEnet in Athens, OH gave the Cleveland group some perspective.
"We learned that it's a complex and challenging model to replicate," McDermott said, "especially the financial sustainability. It's all inclusive and hands-on, which is one way to do it, but it hasn't been easy. Their strategy involves not only the space but helping with the business plan and marketing."
McDermott hopes to 'bake in' to the new local food business feasibility study a business model for a community kitchen that works for small- and large-scale operations. A firm will be selected by Parkworks, Neighborhood Progress, Inc., The Cleveland-Cuyahoga Food Policy Coalition, the city and members of the 2019 Local Food Work Group, including McDermott, in March.
10,000 Farmers is a collaborative goal that started with Darwin Kelsey, director of the Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservancy, Morgan Taggart at OSU Extension, and localfoodcleveland.org, an online network which also hosts events focused on training farmers. "Our most recent event had a panel of three, small-scale urban farmers," says McDermott, who organizes the site and events in his role as Network Weaver at Entrepreneurs for Sustainability. "We had 215 people there trying to push (10,000 Farmers) forward."
McDermott is also talking to Eric Phillips, director of Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority and Eric Wobser, director of Ohio City Near West community development corporation about converting the five acres of green space behind Riverview Tower in Ohio City as an urban farm for residents to use. "I envision like (the Cuyahoga Valley Countryside) Conservancy splitting it into intensive market gardens, having a stand at the West Side Market and leasing a space for shared stations and a walk-in cooler. We're continuing to look at St. Emeric Church located just east of the West Side Market, even though it's in the appeals process with the Catholic Church (over the decision to close)."
Todd Alexander is leading a subgroup from the 2019 Local Food on a Growhio local food campaign, and provided the following update:
Vision: Growhio seeks to increase demand for local food products and services by acting as an educational resource for information seekers, consumers and future local food participants.
Mission: To strengthen and support all aspects of Northeast Ohio's local food entities through branding, marketing and collaboration.
Goal 1: Integrated Marketing Growhio seeks to build demand for local food by showcasing the efforts of our region's food groups in a cohesive and strategic manner. A comprehensive website will offer information, links and opportunities for consumers to learn about buying, growing, selling, collaborating and volunteering within the local food community. The online aspect of this marketing campaign can act as an umbrella for all groups related to the local food movement.
Goal 2: Branding Growhio seeks to develop a local food certification program and solicit membership for its organization. The certification system will promote fresh, locally grown, sustainably raised and produced food while making it easy for consumers to locate and connect with local food from sources they can trust.
Growhio, with input from stakeholders, will establish specific requirements that products, restaurants and other entities must meet in order to be Growhio certified local. The Growhio certification seal will serve as a promotional tool that restaurants and other entities can use to show that they have met Growhio's certification requirements and draw attention to their support of our local food system.
Goal 3: Volunteerism Growhio seeks to gain and direct volunteer support to focus on local food initiatives that have the most holistic benefit to the movement. The focus on volunteer efforts may take place seasonally, monthly or based on specific projects with the hopes that sustained and focused volunteer efforts will help to advance our local food system.
Update on Progress: Some of the progress we have been making will allow Growhio to move from its current state as an advocate of local food to a resource center / information hub that can help drive market growth and improve knowledge of what is going on in NEO's local food scene. First, Ohio City Near West has agreed to act as our fiscal agent. This is important so that Growhio can begin to raise money through grant writing or donations. Second, Growhio has possibly made two strategic partnerships that will allow us to launch a website (more to come). -----------
The Northeast Ohio region only produces 1% of the food that is consumed locally. Can this be increased to 5% or 10% in the near future and even 20% over the long term?
To do this, the Cleveland Foundation has provided funding to a coalition of local nonprofits to use this momentum as a springboard for the development of a strategic business plan that will map out how to take the local food market to scale. The major goal is to create a significant economic development strategy for the Northeast Ohio region based on the production, processing and distribution of food.
To that end, this RFP is being issued to select a suitably qualified professional team to assist in establishing this economic development strategy by assessing the current market, analyzing the growth potential, and creating and developing a timeframe for achieving production and consumption goals.
-from the Northeast Ohio Local Food Assessment RFP January 4, 2010